Planning continues for East San Fernando Valley Transit Corridor, another Measure R project

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What is the East San Fernando Valley Transit Corridor?

Perhaps not as well known as some of the others, the East San Fernando Valley Transit Corridor is one of the 12 Measure R transit projects.  The project is currently in the Alternatives Analysis (AA) phase in which different types of transit and alignments for the corridor are being studied.

The recently-opened Orange Line Extension runs along Canoga Avenue and serves the western side of the Valley. The East San Fernando Valley project, as the name implies, is intended to help north-south travel further east.

After reviewing options as far east as Lankershim, it was decided to focus the study within the Van Nuys and Sepulveda Boulevard corridors. With about 23,000 boardings on an average weekday, Van Nuys is the heaviest travelled north-south corridor in the San Fernando Valley. And it’s the 2nd heaviest corridor in the Valley behind the Metro Orange Line. Based on community input and the proximity of Sepulveda Boulevard, Metro staff decided to evaluate that street as well.

Staff reported all this to the Metro Board earlier this year. Here’s the staff report (pdf).

So what happens now?

Metro will be holding community meetings later this year to share information on the options being explored and to gather public input. We’ll post that information just as soon as it’s available.

The two big questions obviously are what will the route be for the project and what kind of project will it be? Light rail? Bus Rapid Transit? Something else?

The short answer for now: we don’t yet know. One purpose of this early stage of environmental analysis is to determine what makes the most sense transit-wise given the needs and demands in this corridor. Once the options are narrowed down, further stages of analysis will delve into the environmental impacts of those alternatives.

When it comes to routes, the project could extend as far south as Ventura Boulevard and as far north as the Sylmar Metrolink station or the 210 Freeway. In between, it could generally follow Van Nuys Boulevard, Sepulveda Boulevard or a hybrid of both.

As required, the study also has to evaluate different types of travel options, known as “modes” in the parlance of planners. These include bus rapid transit, possibly like the current Orange Line, and light rail, such as the current Blue, Green, Gold and Expo Lines. The evaluation also has to consider a “transportation systems management” alternative that would enhance existing transit services and make other low cost upgrades to improve traffic flow in the corridor. Lastly, the study is required by law to evaluate a “no-build” option.

Various factors will be used to weigh the alternatives including ridership, travel speed and reliability, connectivity with the regional transit network, cost-effectiveness, economic and land-use considerations, community input and others. Currently, the project has been allotted $170.1 million, with most of that money coming from Measure R. That money has to cover the cost of the environmental studies as well as construction for the project itself. Staff may try to seek additional funds from the federal government, but that is still down the road.

Many Source readers and those who have left comments on the project’s Facebook page have said they favor a light-rail alternative. If that happens, the project will also need to acquire land and build a yard to store and maintain the cars — since the project wouldn’t connect with other Metro light rail lines. Metro already has two bus divisions in the San Fernando Valley. For the sake of comparison, phase one of the newly opened Expo Line cost $932 million for 8.6 miles of light rail. An East San Fernando Valley transit project that stretches the full length of the study area could be 11 or twelve miles long.

We know your next two questions: What about the future Sepulveda Pass Transit project? Shouldn’t this project connect with that one?

That is a separate project. Under the current Measure R schedule, the East San Fernando Valley project is scheduled to be complete by 2018, 21 years before the Sepulveda Pass project which isn’t scheduled to open until 2039. The East San Fernando Valley project is something that could provide needed mobility benefits within just a few short years and still be planned to connect with the future Sepulveda Pass project. We wrote about that recently.

It might make sense to combine the two projects sooner if the Sepulveda Pass can be accelerated — although that project has funding challenges, too, as it will likely cost more than the $1 billion allocated to it by Measure R.  Given those uncertainties, it may be best to do something as soon as possible for north-south commuters in the Valley and to build a project that can be smartly linked to a future Sepulveda Pass project.

Once this AA phase of the study is completed, it is expected that some of the options will move forward for further evaluation with the preparation of an environmental impact statement/environmental impact report. That could begin this winter.

So, what kind of a project do you like? What route? And, if funding is limited, what would do you think about phasing the project? Let us know.

27 replies

  1. Rail, Rail, Rail. If there was ever a perfect corridor for METROLINK CRT service this is it. Second best would be grade separated LRT from Roscoe down to Ventura, third best would be no build. If Metro planners can’t find federal dollars to build a rail transit alternative to the busiest freeway in human history, then it’s time for those folks to brush up their CV’s and move to the OC. Even a 1-mile long , 2 station rail segment would be preferable to a 10-mile bus line that would ultimately be subject to (and generally increasing) street traffic.

  2. If the project is going to be completed by 2018, the line would have to be another bus line. I think the line should go as far north as possible. I’m not sure if the Sylmar Metrolink station or the 210 Freeway is the furthest point north but, the Sylmar Metrolink station makes the most sense for a stop for transfers to the Metrolink and maybe the high-speed trains.

  3. If you built a LRT down Van Nuys Blvd it will likely cost at least $100 million a mile at grade, which would be one billion dollars. Any grade separation brings that cost up substantially. There is something like $100 milion set aside for this project and it will cost at least ten times that if its a LRT.

    The other fantasy is to have a train run over the Sepulveda pass through what would probably be a tunnel. Where would this train stop at…Westwood…Wilshire Blvd? Are we going to take out 2 1/2 lanes along Wilshire Blvd to put in a train station? Residents who were livid about taking out two parking lanes for bus only lanes during peak hours only would love that idea. The cost of this would be in the multi billions of dolars. There is only one billion dollars in Measure R funds set-aside for this project. Where would the other billions of dollars come from?

    Lots of people commenting here are stuck on the technology for transit, rather than trying to see how to improve service to where people want to go, which is what most transit users want.

  4. I hate flying, bot our HSR utopianism will do us in if we don’t wake up and get realsitic! Governor Brown wants Californians to raise taxes, all the while telling schools to go to hell since he wants HSR full-speed-ahead, no matter what the cost for this train to nowhere. ASAP, we need to have a ballot measure to cancel HSR and divert the funds equally between rail, bus and highways. Otherwise, our unwillingness to cut our losses and compromise will wreck (no pun intended) much regional rail just like Woodrow Wilson’s utopianism killed the League of Nations.

  5. For those of you who believe that it has to be a train on every one of these major projects, well there would not be enough money to put in a train along the east San Fernando Valley corridor if the Orange Line extension was put in as a LRT. Instead of costing $188 million to complete as a BRT line and money left over to do a more substantial east San Fernando Valley project, the Orange Line extension could easily have cost $400 million to complete as a LRT. That would have used all of the money set aside for a Rapidway improvement for the San Fernando Valley under Measure R. The LRT on the Orange Line extension would have very little passengers because the westend of the valley is not transit dependent and the transit dependent Van Nuys corridor would have been stuck with buses running in mixed traffic just like they do now.

  6. Here’s the Transit Coalition’s Facebook page for the Metro JEM Line concept, with links to maps and a fact sheet:

    Please *like* the page on Facebook!

    Note that Transit Coalition is calling for LRT, mostly at-grade, from Sylmar Metrolink to the Metro Orange Line station, which would cover the bulk of the current Van Nuys Boulevard ridership. With the acceleration of Measure R funding through the extension vote this November, the Sepulveda Pass segment, starting with a grade-separated crossing of the Metro Orange Line, could be built much sooner.

    Finally, funds from the extension of Measure R would be available to augment the existing Measure R commitment to the East SFV and Sepulveda Pass transit corridors. The first few years of the extension would go toward the 30 year bonds that will be issued now to accelerate funds committed by Measure R, but the out-year revenue streams would be available for bonding for funds beyond Measure R levels.

  7. Yes, light rail requires a maintenance center and some acquisition of land. Los Angeles Metro is well versed in these areas and I have the utmost confidence that we as a county can come together to forge an inclusive, regional rail system. BRT is very nice and hundreds of thousands of people ride it but it does not have the capacity or staying-power of steel tracks. In the SFV, this will be necessary. Truthfully, this I-405 corridor (of which the East San Fernando Valley Transit Corridor is merely the northern portion) should be heavy rail. Wilshire gets heavy rail and moves a fraction of people that the I-405 moves (yes, that’s a bit simplistic).

    I’ve always been a little annoyed that the Orange and Silver lines get their own colors as if they were the same as light rail, though I suppose the same argument can be used wrt heavy rail vs light rail.

  8. One of the traffic engineers from the consulting company doing the evaluation told me at one of the outreach meetings that traffic on Van Nuys Blvd did not cause a big delay in the bus travel time. It was the loading of passengers that caused the bus to miss several green lights. Having boardings at all doors would improve that greatly.

    Putting protected cycle tracks for bicycles on both sides of the street would likely greatly reduce the demand for transit on either Sepulveda Blvd or Van Nuys Blvd as cycling would be faster and more convenient than transit for short trips. The condition of the street on Van Nuys Blvd makes it very difficult to ride a bike there now.

    LRT costs a lot more than the amount of money allocated for the project. The original name was Rapidway Project and that should give a strong hint to what they had in mind for improvements. Even a BRT is stretching it financially.

    The space needed for either a BRT or LRT down the middle of either street would require the equivalent of two and a half travel lanes. A traffic engineer at one of the outreach meetings suggested that maybe they could narrow the sidewalks to fit in the project in the areas where it would be a tight fit. Thev’ve already considered taking away the parking. I don’t see how there could be a BRT or LRT down the middle of the street with adequate accomodations for cycling, cars and pedestrians. Perhaps a streetcar running in mixed traffic, but I don’t believe a streetcar is going to get a serious consideration as it would get stuck if a disabled car blocked its path and it only has about a one third greater passenger capacity than a 60-foot bus.

  9. Off topic: the linked PDF report mentions that LADOT has found the traffic signal transponders on rapid buses to be ineffective and not worth pursuing further. Is this true? Why are they so birg on promoting that feature if the savings are so minimal in terms of transit time?

    Also, everyone keeps saying we NEED light rail… In my opinion, light rail would be good, but if brt is significantly cheaper, I say start with brt and upgrade to light rail once high speed rail comes along.

  10. Can some of this funding possibly come from extending measure R past the 40years? The valley is one of the most congested (both on the 405 & 101), we generate a lot of tax revenue for LA city why aren’t we treated the same when it comes to transit? I really hope we figure out a way to build light rail. America fast forward was put into the transport bill and if measure R is extended I don’t see why this and possibly a few other projects get more funding. If extending measure R put to vote with no extra projects it won’t happen.

  11. Segment #1 Sylmar/HSR station to Ventura blvd. A yard gets built as part of this segment for light rail. Runs initially as a feeder to Amtrak/Metrolink station at Van Nuys, the Orange Line and to/from the HSR project at Sylmar. Runs at surface.
    Segment #2. Tunnel from Ventura blvd under the pass and UCLA crossing the Purple Line and ending at Expo Line. This provides the east/west distribution.
    Segment #3 From Expo, through Fox Hills area/Culver City to LAX. Probably a combo of tunnel, elevated and maybe short stretches of at grade if that can even be done.

    A bus line is just not going to do it. The Orange Line is already overburdened and even if you only take a % of the traffic off the 405 line, buses will just not be up to the task. Don’t waste too much time studying bus. Study the absolute best way to make this light rail line built with good cost controls. While you are at it, 4 car platforms instead of 3 ? This line really should be heavy rail subway, but since LRT is good balance of cost, my only worry would be if 3 car trains can handle the loads. Unless you are planning to run Blue Line style frequency most of the day.

  12. Actually, for the Sepulveda Pass line I was thinking an HRT extension of the Purple Line north from the VA to Sherman Oaks Galleria, Van Nuys/Ventura, and Van Nuys Orange Line (downtown Van Nuys). Since I don’t think Van Nuys Boulevard has the densities needed for HRT I would use Van Nuys as a hub for BRT services. The other advantage of BRT is that it can go further in the northeast Valley, including Lakeview Terrace, that would never have the density to support LRT.

  13. Ridership projections make the BRT versus LRT debate a moot point. BRT cannot accomodate the expected ridership on a corridor that runs from Sylmar to LAX or even Westwood. Mayor Villaraigosa has already alluded to this preliminary finding. The only way BRT can even be considered is by bisecting the corridor studies, exactly as Metro has done, thus creating artificially constrained alternative analyses. When studying the ridership from Sylmar to Ventura Blvd. the demand is obviously lower than an alternative that includes the trip generators on the south side of the Santa Monica mountains. Making BRT seem like a viable candidate is a bureaucratic contrivance.

  14. Let’s think long term solutions here and get all the environmental clearances for a light-rail line. The project itself should be divided into two phases: Phase 1 should be at-grade and start at the San Fernando Metrolink station and continue south down the ROW then veer onto median of Brand Blvd, onto Sepulveda Blvd, then east on Parthenia St where it would then continue south on Van Buys Blvd – all while utilizing the median ROW. It should head below-grade at Roscoe Blvd and have a subway portal to the Van Nuys Amtrak/Metrolink Station.

    Phase 2 would continue the line south on Van Nuys Blvd below-grade until Sepulveda and Ventura Boulevards where it will eventually (hopefully) meet up with the Sepulveda Pass project.

  15. A LRT line is expensive, but if we don’t build it now the right way it won’t get built.
    It needs to start at the Sylmar Metrolink satiation or the future HSR station (since HSR is coming) and connect to the Sepulveda Pass LRT that needs to connect to the Expo line.
    We need to look at the future boarding for this line through the valley and include the riders that will be connecting on the Metrolink to or from Santa Clarita or Palmdale (and eventually Victorville and Las Vegas) or the HSR from Northern California and going over the Sepulveda pass to West LA, Santa Monica, LAX or other destination. A BRT has a limited capacity compared to a LRT system.

    The 405 through the valley and over the Sepulveda pass is already at capacity even with the $1B+ Sepulveda pass HOV project will never be able to handle the future needs of transportation growth through the corridor. We need to install a LRT system that has enough capacity for the future.

    If the LRT could be designed so express trains could be run in conjunction with Local trains, possibly using bypass tracks at some stations, then this would make a complete system that would handle the transportation requirements in this corridor well in to the future.

    As far as a maintenance yard, if the Van Nuys Orange Line Station and parking lot is covered there would be ample space for a maintenance facility

  16. Doesn’t the completion target of 2018 preclude certain transportation modes? Based on the estimates for the Purple Line extension, I don’t believe you could do a heavy-rail subway in six years. I think Phase One of the Expo Line showed that a six-year window might even be tight for light rail, and that was shorter and didn’t include the construction of a maintenance yard.

    If we’re just now starting the AA and there’s a delivery target of 2018, isn’t the deck stacked for BRT?

  17. if you ask me i think there should be a line that starts in the north valley and goes down to LAX, maybe a little farther. maybe a subway line

  18. BRT can be a cost effective, alternative to rail………if its done right.

    The Orange Line is popular, but its not Rapid when you have to sit in the same traffic lights as cars. Sitting in a traffic light, then waiting at the station, is fairly annoying. It needs to be completely grade separated. That way it can be truely rapid, a subway on wheels. It can even be a trackless trolley, to make it even more green.

    I was living in Boston when the Silver Line (BRT) debuted. They marketed it as a “Subway on Wheels!” However, many portions were on the street. Critics called it the “Silver Lie.” Kind of what some people originally called the “Orange Lie.”

    Conclusion. BRT works if it does not come into contact with car traffic. It then can go fast and be a rapid alternative. Building it on street level, waiting in the same lights as cars, and then calling it a “subway on wheels” is poor marketing.

  19. The project should be buses for now, but built in a way to facilitate quick coversion to LRT in the event the Sepulveda Pass project is a train from Sherman Oaks to UCLA-Wilshire/Westwood. By striping a dedicated right-of-way down the middle of Van Nuys Blvd from San Fernando to Ventura Blvd with stations configured similar to the stations on the South LA section of the Expo line, that would get the heavy-lifting of ROW issues for LRT out of the way (when real estate prices are down). Then, when it’s time to tunnel the Santa Monica Mountains, we can sink the Ventura Blvd station, pop to the surface a la the Eastside Gold Line, and extend (at first) to the Orange Line in phase I, and then finally all the way up San Fernando in future phases.

  20. This project has to be rail. Connecting with the Sepulveda Pass project will make sense because people from the valley will be able to connect with the rest of the lines in LA County. It will create a shortcut, rather than having to take the Red Line then hopping on the Purple Line to Westwood. It should even connect with the Expo Line so people can enjoy the Westside and even go to the beach.

  21. Rail!! More rail! When I saw East SF Valley I was hoping to see downtown Burbank, Bob Hope, maybe Glendale. Could there be a better allocation of money, like towards extending the purple line to the ocean or for environ. studies for a Crenshaw line extension up through West Hollywood? Or maybe that deleted 5th and flower stop? (I know all these projects cost way over 170.1 btw)

  22. I really do think this should be LRT. that way it would connect easily with the Sepulveda Pass project (which should also be LRT). If you do BRT now, then you would have repeated the same thing with Red Line connecting to Orange Line BRT. I understand there is some sort of ban against LRT in the Valley though, which is why Orange line was BRT. But, don’t see why the next Valley Project can’t connect seamlessly with future rail projects on the West side.

  23. Do the sensible thing… a bus rapid transit line with dedicated, painted (!) lanes down the center (!) of Van Nuys, integrated into a transitway/HOT lane along the 405. The cost can be minimized by taking lanes from cars rather than widening the street/highway. To avoid a political backlash, educate people (!) about the fact that more people taking buses will mean fewer cars on the road and less congestion, even with fewer lanes. This really shouldn’t cost billions (as a rail line undoubtedly would), because LA already has most of the infrastructure, and in particular more than enough asphalt.

    Perhaps after Wilshire BRT goes online Angelenos will be more willing to put faith and money into buses…

  24. Hi agree with Steve White. Please consider this as Phase One of the Sepulveda Pass project. We have one chance to get the right!

  25. This corridor needs to be rail and connect to Westwood. It needs to include bike paths and lanes.

  26. I agree that it’d be nice to do something as soon as possible… but that needs to be done with the future in mind. It could really be the “Phase One” of the Sepulveda Pass project, and should be thought of as a line that will eventually connect seamlessly to that project.